The Grand River Restoration Project (GRRP) has many components and partners working together to make it a reality. Read below to learn about some of the main components.
River for All is a collaborative project among regional, state and national partners working to return the Grand River to its rightful place as the iconic center of Grand Rapids. These partners have long envisioned a connected and equitable river corridor that restores the historical relationship between the Grand River and the people of Grand Rapids. Their collective efforts have been instrumental in moving this initiative forward.
City of Grand Rapids
The City of Grand Rapids adopted the Green Grand Rapids Master Plan in 2012. This community planning process resulted in ideas for green infrastructure, natural systems, connectivity, recreation and public health. The plan includes a focus on making the Grand River an asset for economic development and quality of life. Building on this work, the 2017 Grand Rapids Parks & Recreation Strategic Master Plan envisions a connected network of riverfront parks.
Grand Rapids Whitewater
Grand Rapids Whitewater is a nonprofit organization that aims to restore the city’s namesake rapids to improve the river’s health and offer new recreational opportunities. In addition to offering new, safer river recreation such as canoeing, kayaking, and stand-up paddling, its work will provide sustainable social, economic and environmental benefits. Grand Rapids Whitewater is the lead partner for River for All wet projects.
Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.
Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. (DGRI) is responsible for the development of our city’s urban core. GR Forward, an initiative facilitated by Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., the City of Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Public Schools, aims to transform Downtown Grand Rapids and the Grand River corridor. This 10-year strategic plan imagines a regional river trail system and enhanced neighborhood access to the river.
Great Lakes Fishery Commission
The Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GLFC) is a bi-national commission made up of representatives of the United States and Canada. In addition to coordinating fisheries research and facilitating cooperative fishery management among multiple agencies, the commission is responsible for control of the invasive sea lamprey. GLFC will lead the construction of a proposed Adjustable Hydraulic Structure (AHS) barrier to prevent the spread of this harmful parasite.
What does River for All hope to do for our community?
River for All aims to return the Grand River to its rightful place as the iconic center of Grand Rapids. It’s doing this by creating a connected and equitable river corridor that restores the historical relationship between the Grand River and the people of Grand Rapids.
Create accessible, equitable public spaces
Enhance ecological systems, water quality & river stewardship
Add amenities that benefit our economy
Ensure equitable business opportunities
River for All aims to return the Grand River to its rightful place as the iconic center of Grand Rapids. It’s doing this by creating a connected and equitable river corridor that restores the historical relationship between the Grand River and the people of Grand Rapids. River for All will implement the vision and direction of several interconnected plans.
The process of reimagining the river has taken place over many years. From the start, community forums, public meetings, design charettes, stakeholder interviews and door-to-door canvassing have encouraged resident involvement. To date, more than 16,000 individuals have helped create a series of plans for the future of the Grand River.
The Grand Rapids Master Plan, adopted by the City in 2002, envisioned a more visible and accessible river. This plan became Green Grand Rapids and expanded with ideas for green infrastructure, connectivity and recreational uses for public health.
Grand Rapids Whitewater emerged to focus on restoring the city’s namesake rapids to improve the river’s health and create new recreational opportunities. GR Forward, a partnership between the City and Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc., offered plans for a regional river trail system and enhanced neighborhood access to the river. In 2017, the Grand Rapids Parks & Recreation Strategic Master Plan conceptualized a connected network of riverfront parks.
These plans, shaped by our community, reimagine the river as a place of beauty, connection and activity that will enhance our community. River for All serves as the convener, uniting the City of Grand Rapids, nonprofits, businesses and the community in a shared vision.
River for All aims to return the Grand River to its rightful place as the iconic center of Grand Rapids. It’s doing this by creating a connected and equitable river corridor that restores the historical relationship between the Grand River and the people of Grand Rapids. It is also critical to protect the ecology of the river and improve water quality. Two projects that support this work are the planned relocation of native freshwater mussels during construction and the proposed installation of a specially-designed barrier to prevent the spread of harmful invasive sea lampreys.
Native freshwater mussels are an important part of the aquatic ecosystem in the Grand River watershed. They serve as a natural water purification system, filtering the river as they eat microscopic food particles that include decaying organic material.
Sixteen of the 27 species of mussels found in the Grand River are listed as endangered, threatened or of special concern by the state. One of these species, the snuffbox mussel (Epioblasma triquetra), is federally endangered. The presence of snuffbox mussels in the river is a positive indicator of river health. That’s because they need a silt-free environment and cannot tolerate pollution.
To protect snuffbox mussels during River for All projects, Grand Rapids Whitewater is working with an ecological consultant on a plan to relocate the mussels to new habitat areas upstream.
Sea Lamprey Migration Prevention
Sea lampreys are an ancient parasitic fish that latch on to other fish using sharp, horn-shaped teeth and a rasping tongue, feeding off them until they die. Their entry into the Great Lakes through canal systems caused a massive collapse in the fishery. A single sea lamprey can kill about 40 pounds of fish in its lifetime.
The Great Lakes Fishery Commission, in collaboration with the City of Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Whitewater, will lead the construction of a proposed Adjustable Hydraulic Structure (AHS) barrier between Ann and Leonard streets. It will be built prior to the removal of the aging Sixth Street dam, which currently serves as a barrier to this invasive species. Because the barrier is adjustable, it will be raised when sea lampreys are migrating and lowered when they are not present. This allows improved native fish passage.
What are “dry” projects?
River for All projects taking place along the river are categorized as “dry.” These include the development of a continuous riverfront trail and plans to transform six “opportunity sites” along the river’s edge to begin the creation of a user-friendly, welcoming and accessible waterfront. The preliminary designs for these sites have been developed. River for All will further the vision of river restoration by continuing to listen to community voices and guiding the next steps toward implementation. This long-term vision for the river will include many years of work and extend beyond Downtown Grand Rapids.
River Edge Trail Project
The river edge trail project, born from the GR Forward plan and led by Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc., aims to create a 7.5-mile multiuse, accessible trail on both sides of the river. This work reinforces the Grand Rapids Whitewater initiative, enhances neighborhood access to the river, acts as a catalyst for development and positions our city as the hub in a regional trail system.
Building on the GR Forward plan, the City of Grand Rapids identified six initial opportunity sites where work would complement and connect to river restoration efforts. Conceptual design for these sites were shared in November 2018. They include recreation areas, river access points, native plantings, interactive art, public venues and more. The six sites are:
While plans are preliminary, you might eventually see a winter lodge, stormwater marshes, community plazas, picnic groves, mixed-use development, a river classroom, an ampitheater and ceremonial fire rings.